‘Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned.’
What is meant here by ‘the commandment’? In the Greek, the word for ‘commandment’ is the same as that translated ‘charge’ in the third verse, and the meaning is, ‘the end, the point, of the charge you must give is charity.’ Now ‘charity’ is only another word for ‘love.’ There is only one word in the Greek for both of our English words, and the authors of the Revised Version rightly substituted the more comprehensive word ‘love’ for ‘charity.’ The Apostle Paul is here exhorting Timothy, Bishop of Ephesus, how to deal with certain persons who were disputing about unimportant things instead of with the all-important principles of the Christiaa faith. ‘You have among you,’ the Apostle would say, ‘teachers, perhaps clergy, who need instructing in the things they should teach; they are making the people take up foolish questions, and neglecting the all-important things. Their teaching is “vain jangling.” Now the point of your charge that I am so anxious you should press upon them is love, “out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned.” ’ In a word, the great subject which St. Paul urges Christian teachers to inculcate is love and its sources.
St. Paul tells us there are three sources of the true and blessed love which God asks for.
I. It must flow out of ‘a pure heart.’—There is a sort of love which can flow out of an impure heart. That is a mockery of love—a low, mean, contemptible thing. A pure heart! it is a priceless possession. Guard the treasure, for it is easy to lose, and hard to regain it.
II. Love must issue out of a ‘good conscience.’—Let us understand clearly what conscience is. It is the power or faculty within us which tells us when we do right or wrong, approving the right and condemning the wrong. Conscience needs to be well instructed and guided by right principles. But it is our best guide, and it is better to err with conscience than to go right against it.
III. Love is the outgrowth of ‘faith unfeigned.’—Faith is the power in the soul which makes real the unseen, which lives for another world; it is the realising faculty. Surely this faith in the unseen lies at the root of all religion. But it must be ‘unfeigned.’ It must be real—no mere words, no mere profession. It must set the soul in the presence of God. Above all, it must make real to the soul the living Saviour.
Bishop Walsham How.
‘What do you think of Father Damien, who, knowing perfectly well what it meant, went and lived in Leper Island, till he took the complaint and died? I could name men of high promise and prospects in this world who have, for pure love, given up all to live and labour among the poor and outcasts. Such characters may be rare, but they are not impossible; but, even were they rarer, remember there is God’s ideal given us.’
THE END OF THE COMMANDMENT
The end of commandment is not love all at once; it requires no small amount of soil-forming and foundation-laying first. The true love of which the Apostle was thinking involves no little preparatory culture and accomplishing; it is emphatically the commandment’s end—the end of seed sown and work done.
I. True love is not by any means the very simple and easy thing which it is frequently assumed to be.—You cannot resolve to begin at once to be loving; you must become much that you are not, perhaps, to be so. True, it is not much to be for the most part gracious and kind and tender, to give away things, and indulge people, and think only of making them instantly comfortable; it is not much, especially for some persons—no straight gate, but a very broad, smooth way; it is their instinct, their nature—they cannot help it. One might say of them often, that they have not purity, conscience, or faith enough to be otherwise; for there is a love very pretty and pleasant, the influence and exercise of which is owing to the absence of these. But this is not ‘the end of the commandment,’ or ‘the fulfilment of the law.’
II. The love which St. Paul intends and desires is love—
(a) Rooted in purity.
(b) Rooted in conscience, and
(c) Rooted in faith, one of the highest and ripest attainments of the Christian life.
‘There is the love of unbelief, of which the present day affords us some examples. A love which, recognising in man nothing but an outcome and development of matter, nothing but a perishing transient child of the dust, with no immortal future before him and no invisible Father belonging to him, says, “Let us at least try to minister to him while he remains.” This is the love, the cheerless, melancholy love of unbelief. And it is kind and generous enough; its drear eyes weep with them that weep; its pale hands are stretched forth to heal; but very different is the love which St. Paul contemplated, and to which the commandment leads. The commandment, with its declaration of the Divine Fatherhood, and the human Brotherhood of redemption and immortality, and the call to eternal glory—it teaches us the sublime worth and dignity, the awful greatness and sacredness, of man; shows us upon him, under all his dirt and disfigurement, the image and superscription of heaven; presents us to him at his lowest estate, in his deepest debasement, as a child of the Highest whom the Highest has come seeking through sacrifice.’